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Coloradans had fewer run-ins with bears last year, wildlife officials say

Colorado Parks and Wildlife had 3,701 reports of bears in 2021, and they attribute the decrease to more moisture in the spring and summer.

DENVER — State wildlife officials had fewer reports involving bears last year, while the leading cause of sightings and conflicts involved bears getting into trash.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) recapped its bear activity for 2021 on Monday, saying the agency received 3,701 reports for the year. That was a 28% decrease from the average number of reports over the previous two years, CPW said.

One of the biggest reasons for the decrease was the weather, CPW said.

When the state gets good monsoonal summer moisture, that results in better growth for berries and acorns, which are a bear's primary food source in the wild.

"In years where we get good moisture and the food mast is readily available and abundant, we don’t tend to have as much interactions and conflict," said Adrian Archuleta, CPW area wildlife manager in Durango. "In years where it is very dry or we have a freeze event, a late frost, it can be very detrimental.”

Credit: Courtesy of CPW
A Colorado Parks and Wildlife map shows the location of each bear sighting and conflict in 2021.

As drought receded on the eastern side of the Continental Divide last summer, so did bear conflicts, according to CPW:

  • The southeast region saw a 39.8% decrease in bear reports over the average from 2019 and 2020.
  • The northeast region saw a 38.2% decrease.
  • The southwest region saw a 51.2% decrease.

The only region that saw an increase in 2021 over the previous year was the northwest, which remained in a severe drought through the summer. The 1,834 bear reports in that region was 192 more than in 2020 but was 312 less than in 2019, CPW said.

Below: Bears bulk up for winter in Colorado's northeast parks, published in September 2021:

The leading causes of conflict involved bears looking for food by digging through trash. Other causes included birdfeeders and livestock, and bears getting into open garages or other human items that were left unsecured, according to wildlife officials.

Over the past three years, CPW said it had 14,013 bears reports. Out of those reports, 325 bears, or 2.3%, were euthanized. Over the same period, CPW said it relocated 213 bears:

  • 2021: 66 euthanized, 51 relocated
  • 2020: 158 euthanized, 118 relocated
  • 2019: 101 euthanized, 44 relocated

RELATED: 3rd bear euthanized in Steamboat Springs this month

Below: CPW euthanized bears that kept breaking into homes in Steamboat Springs, published in September 2021:

Colorado has between 17,000 and 20,000 black bears, and the population is stable and growing, CPW said.

RELATED: Bear captured in Denver neighborhood

RELATED: Bears reportedly break into 18 cabins in Clear Creek County

RELATED: Bear's journey from Continental Divide ends when it's hit, killed by car

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